We’ve all been blown away by singers before. Some people can sing with technical skill, but also a range of emotional resonance that touches us on a deep level. We think, wow, it’s incredible that someone can make that sound. There are many types of song, from classic opera to the death metal growls. Whatever your taste, all kinds require training and some level of technical expertise.
Then there’s polyphonic singing. That’s when one person creates two different tones with one breath–two notes coming out of one person’s mouth. “Polyphonic” means “multiple sounds,” and in instruments, it’s like playing tow notes on a piano at the same time. Polyphonic singing a very particular skill that takes a lot of practice. It’s also a traditional method of singing in Mongolia.
Video via Anna-Maria Hefele
The sound is odd, almost like a human theremin. If you’re not used to it, you might not enjoy it, but the technique is still interesting. Polyphonic singing is not a weird talent or the result of some uncommon physical gift. Anyone can learn to do this with some practice.
This style of singing has been used in Mongolia for hundreds of years for prayer and folk singing; it’s known as “throat singing.” One theory is that it was used by shepherds to call to each other over great distances, since the sound can carry quite far.
Video via Alex Glenfield
I can’t even carry a tune normally. I can’t imagine doing something like this.